Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lost Maples Deadline

It was a deadline to me. Mary Ann had scheduled a short trip to the Lost Maples State Park so that she could photograph fall colors in Texas. I had reached the waiting point in the latest novel "Roswell or Bust" where sample copies had gone out to my first readers and I won't be doing much on that project until the marked up copies come back. This was the time I needed to turn my attention to the business side of the business. I had several unsold manuscripts that were just sitting idle in my files. They needed to be out there on some editor's desk.

With the looming trip approaching, where my laser printer would be unavailaibe. I had only a few days to re-polish all my selling scripts, write the letters, and get the query letters and sample chapters out into the mail. There was quite a bit of writing to do. I find that I need seven different versions of each novel:

Working Outline: I use OmniOutline Pro to compose a detailed outline of what I intend to write. Sometimes this can be up to 25% of the finished length of the novel -- very detailed.

Manuscript: This is the real novel, in manuscript format, just as the editor will read it. Wide margins, Courier 12, one side of the paper, double-spaced, nice headings on each page.

First Reader Copy: I use a macro to reformat a manuscript to a reader-friendly format. Two columns, Times, single-spaced, both sides of the paper, underlines changed to italics. The finished result is comb bound and individually addressed to each First Reader.

Audio Version: I convert the manuscript into audio chapter files which I load into iTunes and play as I review the work.

Synopsis: This is an abbreviated outline, detailing all of the plot, which is part of most submission packages. I try to boil the whole novel down to five or six pages, formatted like the manuscript. This is a very hard job, and one most writers have problems with. How can you do justice to a zillion paged book in just a handful?

Pitch: This is a half-page introduction to the book, used in query letters to editors. I have to tell enough about the story to show how unique and wonderful it is, while not getting bogged down. If a five page synopsis is hard, this is too. You have to leave out characters, major plot points, all kinds of stuff. I try to make sure my query letter all fits on one sheet, and that includes salutation and headings, etc.

Hook: Write one sentence that captures a reader's interest. You see these all the time on the book covers. The idea here is that you have just seconds before your target's attention moves on to something else. Long before a book sits on the store shelf, it will have to be sold to editors, editorial boards, sales representatives and booksellers. Few if any of them will have read the whole book before hand. Your hook may just make the difference.

So, having polished up my synopsis, pitch and hook for each of my unpublished novels, I reviewed my market lists and composed the necessary query letters and submission packages. My laser printer churned away and on Saturday, I finally had a stack of submissions to be mailed. Off they went, and now I have more waiting to do.

Mary Ann wanted to leave for Lost Maples early Monday, but I was totally surprised when we actually drove out the driveway at 9:45 in the morning. That has to be some kind of a record.

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